Thursday, October 27, 2011

When a lesson in dog bites becomes a lesson in discrimination

Earlier this week, an Easter Oregon School Superintendent gave his students an unintentional lesson in discrimination.
The school had often had a local animal shelter and animal control officers come to the school to teach the students about dog bite prevention. This sounds like a great program -- as young children are often the victims of dog attacks and many times it is the child's behavior around the dog (whether it be teasing the dog, not recognizing canine body language, or the instinct to run from an aggressive dog - often while screaming - that sparks prey drive) that helps incite the attack. So teaching children about dog behavior can be very important.
In fact, this very same program had been credited with helping a local 3rd grader from having serious injuries. Just a month ago, the young boy was attacked by a "German Shepherd mix" and the boy, remembering what he had been taught, dropped to the ground, curled up into a ball and kept his head down. He was bitten by the dog, but not seriously hurt.
However, when the animal control officers and representatives from the Blue Mountain Humane Association showed up for the class, the Superintendent Larry Glaze decided to ban the dog they brought with them. The reason? The dog they brought with them was a 'pit bull'.
It didn't matter that the dog was a well-behaved dog. Or that the dog was great with children and had actually been in area schools on many occassions without incident several times before. Nope, the dog was a 'pit bull', so it was not allowed.
So instead of a lesson in dog bite education - which can be enhanced with a gentle dog with a fierce reputation - -the students got a lesson in discrimination instead. They got a lesson in what it's like to be banned because of perceptions and stereotypes instead of on reality -- and how wrong that type of thinking is. Hopefully some smart teacher will take the opportunity to explain the lesson to these children so they understand at an early age that this type of discrimination -- based on ignorance and bias - is wrong. It could be just as important a lesson for these children as the dog bite prevention....

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